10 Questions for a Broadway Pro. Volume 5: Brian Lynch, Production Manager

With this volume of 10 Qs for a Broadway Pro, we’re going behind the curtain to find out what one of the top Production Managers in the biz has to say about his gig.

If you’ve ever sat at a show and been amazed at how a piece of scenery fit onstage (or backstage), or how a fireworks-like lighting effect didn’t burn up the ensemble, then you’ve witnessed the wonderful work of a Production Manager like Brian Lynch.

Brian Lynch has worked on big shows, small shows, and shows that are juuuuuuuust right, coordinating the technical needs and desires of the Designers and Director, with the needs and desires of the Producers . . . oh, and then he has to coordinate all of that within the confines of the Local 1 Stagehand agreement.

As you’ll see, Brian is a man of few words.  Why?  Well, he’s one of the busiest guys I know, and great Production Managers give you the answers you need quick and fast.  It may not be the answer you want, but the best ones just tell you the truth and tell it yesterday . . . so it doesn’t cost you money tomorrow.

Let’s see how Brian answers our 10 Questions.

1. What is your title?

Production Manager/Technical Supervisor

2. What show/shows are you currently working on?

West Side Story, In the Heights, recently closed Ragtime (unfortunately, great show), and all White Christmas companies

3. In one sentence, describe your job.

Ensure that each production is done with efficiency and within a well-structured technical budget.

4. What skills are necessary for a person in your position?

A working knowledge of all technical aspects of mounting a show in a theatrical environment, being able to work creatively with producers, directors, designers, shops, and stagehands of all types and temperaments, and having a thorough knowledge of all the resources that are available…oh, and lots of patience.

5. What kind of training did you go through to get to your position?

Five years of electronics on a nuclear submarine.  B.A. in English from Loyola University, 1970.  Thirty-five years working on Broadway with Manny Azenberg, Jim Freydberg, Kevin McCollum, Jeffrey Seller, Charlotte Wilcox, etc. etc.

6. What was your first job in theater?

Working on automation systems for the Civic Light Opera Company in Los Angeles…1971.

7. Why do you think theater is important?

It is an art form and all art is important…not to mention the fact that it is how I make my living

8. What is your profession’s greatest challenge today?

Staying relevant and affordable to today’s young people.

9. If you could change just one thing about the industry with the wave of a magic wand, what would it be?

The death of the 25-million-dollar musical!

10. What advice would you give to someone who wanted to do what you do?

Enjoy the challenge.

Who will be the 2009 Producer of the Year? You tell me! Vote now.

Last year I started an annual tradition of choosing a Producer of the Year.  The first winner was the late Gerry Schoenfeld.

This year, I’m changing up how the winner is chosen.

For the past two weeks, I’ve been talking to General Managers, Publicists, Agents and other Prefer-To-Remain-Anonymous-Insiders, to come up with a list of nominees (not surprising, but many of these nominees are also on this year’s “50 Most Powerful People on Broadway”).

And now you’re going to choose the winner.

The list of nominees, as chosen by my select group of experts, is below.  I asked each expert to write a blurb supporting their choice, which also follows.

Take a look, and when you’re ready, click on the link below them to cast your vote.

 1.  Sonia Friedman

Sonia Friedman, producer, norman conquests

“The classy Ms. Friedman has been on a tear lately, and she gets my nod for being courageous enough to produce The Norman Conquests trilogy.  In a world where people want their news in less than 140 characters and their videos in YouTube clips, she actually got people to sit through three plays   . . . in one day!”


2.  Rocco Landesman


“Rocco is the only nominee on my list who gets the nom for not producing anymore.  As the new Chairman of the NEA, Rocco is now in a position to do more for the profit and non-profit theater on a national and international level than anyone else . . . ever.”


 3.  Kevin McCollum

“In addition to Producing West Side, an oft member of the million-dollar-club, Kevin forged new ground by finding a way to make a limited run of a holiday musical work (White Christmas), and by going back to Off-Broadway with Avenue Q.”



 4.  Jeffrey Richards

JeffreyRichards, Hair, Tony Award, Producer

“Jeffrey had seven shows open in 2009.  And he’s still got a couple of weeks left!  The sheer volume of his work qualifies him a nomination, but the real story of the year was his bailout of Hair, which recouped and snatched a Tony.  If only the government’s bailout worked as well as Jeffrey’s.”

 5.  Jordan Roth

Jordan Roth, young, jujamcyn

“When Rocco Landesman jumped on a metroliner to DC, he left an open chair for Jordan Roth, who is sitting in it quite nicely.  At his young age, he’s got decades to go in this biz.  Expect great things.  But more importantly, expect new things.”

A big thank you to my pundits for their wise choices.

And now on to the voting!

To vote for Producer of the Year, click on this link.

Make sure you cast your vote by Sunday, December 27th at 8 PM.

The 2009 Producer of the Year will be announced on the blog on Monday, December 28th.

Good luck to the nominees and let the voting begin!


P.S.  You can only vote once . . . so for those producers on this list who just tried to put their assistant on voting over and over again, nice try.  😉

The Producer’s Perspective “Best of 2008” Awards: Who Is The Producer of the Year

“Best Of” lists at this time of year are like Liza during Act II of Liza At The Palace:  all over the place but definitely worth checking out.

As I poured through this year’s collection of the best/worst lists from every paper, mag and e-zine, I realized that there was a group of folks left out of the annual accolades . . . Producers!

Well, no longer, my TPP readers!

Introducing the 1st Annual Producer’s Perspective “Best Of” Awards, including The Producer Of The Year Award.

Here’s how it works:  there are no set categories except for the big one (next year, I’ll let you propose categories).

Now, without further adieu, here are the winners!


Maybe it’s unfair to put a company like Disney, which has more leverage and brand-awareness than many small countries, up against all the rest of us trying to launch new product.  But you have to give the mouse credit for its menage-a-trois-like DisneyOnBroadway campaign, which has made their three shows as much of an attraction as The Magic Kingdom in Orlando.  In ’08, they also managed to turn the critically-ravaged Little Mermaid into a oft’ member of the million-dollar club.


TOS kept their ball in the air for many a month before they arrived on Broadway with their Title of Show Show (which is continuing on even now).  And the birth of Cubby Bernstein for Xanadu was a terrific Hail Mary toss at the Tony.  Both were great examples of viral campaigns:  funny, celebrity-filled, cheap to create . . . and difficult to convert, as Xanadu lost the Tony and TOS closed prematurely.  A for effort.


In ’08, Blonde parlayed their ’07 MTV appearance into a reality show, cleansing our reality-show casting palettes after the disappointing You’re The One That I Want.  While Legally Blonde and Bailey Hanks were expelled from the boards a bit early, the tour is doing pretty well and I’d bet that the millions of eyeballs the reality show got helped build a brand-foundation in middle America.  And hey, no matter what you think about reality show casting, when young people are telling millions that their lifelong dream is to be on Broadway, it’s good for all of us.


The limited run play has been a successful model for years.  But the limited run musical?  It’s a relatively new one, and with grosses of 1.4 and 1.5 million over the past couple weeks, White Xmas could have finally cracked the “nut”.


This was a competitive category with celebs like a wand-waving Daniel Radcliffe and Katie Cruise debuting on The Great White Way.  But come on, how many people ever thought Whoopi Goldberg would replace in a musical that was struggling to stay afloat?  The Producers of one of the best reviewed shows up for a Tony in ’08 did everything they could to keep their show open, and their work in getting Whoopi on board not only kept the show going, but it got the grosses up.


Have to give it to my own show on this one, thanks to the ultra-active 7,000+ members of 13fans.com we captured in such a short run.  That’s a lot of youngsters falling in love with a musical and wanting to chat about it.  And there’s no doubt they’ll be excited to see another one.  When I was a kid, my 5th grade class went to see Julius Caesar at a local Shakespeare company.  I fell asleep.  I’m surprised I ever wanted to see another piece of theater after that.  You want to develop audiences for the 22nd century?  Give ’em Mamma Mia before you give them Macbeth.  There’s always time for the medicine after the spoonful of sugar has gone down (damn that Disney leverage).


Non-profits should deliver what can’t be done commercially.  They should be homes for the artists whose vision and spirit can’t fit in the small economic box of Broadway.  There was no greater example of that in ’08 than the Atlantic Ocean-sized production of South Pacific.


39 Steps is tenaciously stepping into their 3rd Broadway house.  It ain’t easy or inexpensive to pick up a Broadway show and move it down the block, so they get kudos for grinding it out.


Enough said.

And now the big one . . .


Stay tuned for tomorrow’s entry!

In the meantime, I feel guilty that I didn’t collect your nominations this year, so give me your comments on what you think is the “BEST OF 2008”.  It can be anything:  Best Website, Best Logo for a Musical, Best BS Excuse By An Actor For Leaving A David Mamet Revival . . . you know, anything.